This Week in History: March 12-18, 2018


This Week in History
by Dianne Hermann

“The most effective way to destroy people is to
deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.”
George Orwell

Week of March 12-18, 2018

March 12

1664 – The first naturalization act is passed in American colonies. The first Oaths of Allegiance are also taken.

1789 – The U.S. Post Office is established.

1912 – Juliette Gordon Low forms the Girl Scouts in Savannah, Georgia.

1933 – FDR conducts his first “fireside chat” on the radio. Listen to the chat:

1980 – A jury finds John Wayne Gacy guilty of murdering 33 men and boys in Chicago. Gacy was executed by lethal injection in 1994 at age 52.

1986 – Susan Butcher wins the first of her four 1,158-mile Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Races (1986, 1987, 1988, and 1990). She ran the race 18 times. Butcher died of leukemia in 2006 at age 51. Only Rick Swenson has won more Iditarod races (5). The first Iditarod race was run in 1973. It recreated the dog-sled relay that transported the antitoxin serum to treat a diphtheria epidemic in Nome, Alaska, in January of 1925. Twenty mushers, using 150 dogs, covered 674 miles in 5 ½ days in brutal winter conditions. Watch a brief bio of Butcher:

1989 – About 2,500 veterans and supporters march at the Art Institute of Chicago to demand that officials remove an American flag placed on the floor as part of an exhibit. The exhibit was closed for only a short period of time then reopened.

2003 – Elizabeth Smart is found after having been missing for 9 months. She was kidnapped from her bedroom in Salt Lake City, Utah, by Brian David Mitchell. He was sentenced to life in prison in 2011. Smart is now 30 years old.

2003 – The U.S. Air Force announces that it will resume reconnaissance flights off the coast of North Korea. The flights stopped on March 2 after an encounter with four armed North Korean jets.

March 13

1868 – The Senate begins President Andrew Johnson’s impeachment trial. The Senate fails to impeach Johnson by one vote.

1901 – Andrew Carnegie announces that he is retiring from business and that he will spend the rest of his life giving away his fortune. His net worth was estimated at $300 million.

1925 – Tennessee passes the “Butler Act,” making it unlawful to teach evolution. High school teacher John Scopes is tried for violating that act in July. He is found guilty and is fined $100, but the verdict is overturned on a technicality. It is later revealed that town leaders convinced Scoped to plead guilty for the publicity after the ACLU offered to defend anyone accused of teaching evolution.

1963 – Ernesto Miranda is arrested in Phoenix, Arizona, and interrogated by police until he signs a confession. The Supreme Court ruled in 1966 that Miranda had not been informed of his legal rights and his conviction for kidnapping and rape was overturned. Miranda was stabbed to death in a bar fight in 1976. He was 34 years old.

1974 – The U.S. Senate votes 54-33 to restore the death penalty.

1991 – Exxon pays $1 billion in fines and for the cleanup of the Valdez oil spill.

1997 – The unidentified flying objects called the “Phoenix Lights” are seen over Phoenix, Arizona, by hundreds of people and by millions on television. They continue to be a hotly debated controversy. Watch this amateur video (no sound):

2012 – After 244 years of publication, Encyclopedia Britannica announced it is discontinuing its U.S. print edition.

March 14

1812 – Congress authorizes the sale of war bonds to finance the War of 1812.

1900 – U.S. currency goes on the gold standard. Since 1971, the U.S. dollar has been called fiat currency, meaning it is not backed by a physical commodity (gold), and is only worth the paper it’s printed on.

1923 – President Warren G. Harding becomes the first President to file an income tax report and pay taxes.

1943 – President Franklin D. Roosevelt becomes the first President to fly in an airplane while in office.

1958 – The Recording Industry Association of American is created. Perry Como’s “Catch a Falling Star” is certified as its first gold record. Watch Como perform his hit song in England:

1967 – President JFK’s body is moved from a temporary grave to a permanent memorial at Arlington National Ceremony.

1967 – In the first NFL-AFL football common draft, the Baltimore Colts pick defensive lineman Bubba Smith.

1989 – Imported “assault” guns are banned in the U.S. under President George H.W. Bush’s administration.

1997 – President Bill Clinton trips at 1:20 AM while on a fund-raising trip to Florida. The injury required knee surgery.

March 15

1869 – The Cincinnati Red Stockings become the first professional baseball team.

1875 – John McCloskey of New York City is selected as the first U.S. cardinal of the Catholic Church.

1892 – The first escalator is patented by inventor Jesse W. Reno. It was introduced as an amusement park ride at New York’s Coney Island in 1896.

1892 – The first lever voting machine, the “Myers Automatic Booth,” debuts in Lockport, New York. A lever was assigned to each candidate and the voter pulled the lever to vote for the corresponding candidate.

1912 – Future Hall of Fame baseball pitcher Cy Young retires from baseball with 511 wins. The award bearing his name has been given annually to the best pitcher starting in 1956, the year after Young’s death.

1916 – General Pershing and 15,000 troops, on orders from President Wilson, chase Pancho Villa into Mexico after Villa repeatedly attacked American interests in New Mexico. Villa was never captured but was assassinated in Mexico in 1923.

1945 – Billboard publishes its first top album chart with “The King Cole Trio” as its first #1 album. The album included “It’s Only a Paper Moon.” Listen to the original song with still photos:

1945 – Bert Shepard, a WWII veteran with an artificial leg, tries out as a pitcher for Washington Senators. He pitched in one game on August 4th. Shepard died in 2008 at age 87.

1954 – “CBS Morning Show” premieres with Walter Cronkite and Jack Paar. Cronkite died in 2009 at age 92 and Paar died in 2004 at age 85.

1968 – LIFE magazine calls Jimi Hendrix the “most spectacular guitarist in the world.” Hendrix died in 1970 at age 27. Watch left-handed Hendrix perform “Purple Haze”:

1977 – The U.S. House of Representatives begins a 90-day test of televising its sessions.

1985 – The first Internet domain name,, is registered.

1989 – The Department of Veterans Affairs is officially established as a Cabinet position.

2002 – Burger King begins selling a veggie burger in the U.S. The event was billed as the first veggie burger to be sold nationally by a fast food chain.

March 16

1641 – The general court declares Rhode Island a democracy and it adopts a new constitution.

1802 – Thomas Jefferson signs legislation establishing the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York.

1881 – The P. T. Barnum and James A. Bailey Circuses merge and debuts as “The Greatest Show on Earth.” Bailey bought Barnum’s shares after his death in 1890 and the five Ringling brothers bought the circus after Bailey’s death in 1906 creating the Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus. The circus closed in 2017.

1912 – First Lady Helen Herron Taft plants the first cherry trees in Washington, DC. The first Cherry Blossom Festival was held in 1935.

1926 – Rocket scientist Robert Goddard launches the first liquid fuel rocket. It went up 184 feet.

1968 – Robert Kennedy announces his presidential campaign. Kennedy was assassinated on June 6th in Los Angeles when he was 42 years old. His older brother, President John F. Kennedy, was assassinated 5 years earlier. Listen to Robert’s announcement:

1974 – The first performance at the new Grand Ole Opry House is held at Opryland in Nashville, Tennessee. President Nixon and his wife Pat were the first presidential couple to attend the Opry. Nixon is still the only president to perform at the Opry when he played “God Bless America” on the piano. He also played “Happy Birthday” to First Lady Pat Nixon. Watch Nixon play (starts at 1:50):

1988 – A federal grand jury indicts Oliver North and John Poindexter in the Iran-Contra affair. North is convicted of accepting an illegal gratuity, obstructing a congressional inquiry, and destruction of documents, but the ruling is overturned since he had been granted immunity. Poindexter is convicted in 1990 of five counts of lying to Congress and obstructing the investigation, but his conviction is overturned on appeal in 1991.

1994 – Figure skater Tonya Harding pleads guilty to the January felony attack on fellow skater Nancy Kerrigan. Kerrigan won the silver medal at the 1994 Winter Olympics. Harding was fined, got probation, and received a lifetime ban on U.S. skating competitions.

1995 – The Mississippi House of Representatives finally ratifies the 13th Amendment, formally abolishing slavery. Mississippi originally rejected the amendment in 1865, the year it was passed by Congress.

2012 – George Clooney, his father, and other several prominent participants, including Martin Luther King III, are arrested during a protest outside the Sudanese Embassy for civil disobedience. Watch the protest and arrests:

March 17

1894 The U.S. and China sign a treaty preventing Chinese laborers from entering the U.S.

1912 – Mrs. Luther Halsey Gulick announces the organization of Camp Fire Girls.

1927 – The U.S. government does not sign the League of Nations disarmament treaty after World War I.

1941 – The National Gallery of Art is officially opened by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in Washington, DC.

1958 – The Navy launches Vanguard 1 into orbit to measure the Earth’s shape. The first successful U.S. rocket launch was the Jupiter C on January 31, 1958.

1970 – The U.S. casts its first UN Security Council veto. The U.S. cast the lone veto regarding the Rhodesian crisis in order to prevent another resolution relating to Israel.

1973 – The first American prisoners of war (POWs) are released from the “Hanoi Hilton” in Hanoi, North Vietnam.

1995 – The FDA approves the first chicken pox vaccine.

2008 – New York State Governor Eliot Spitzer resigns after a scandal involving a high-end prostitute. David Paterson became the acting New York State governor. Spitzer lost his bid for mayor of New York City in 2013. Watch his resignation speech:

March 18

1818 – Congress approves the first pensions for government service workers.

1834 – The first railroad tunnel in the U.S. is completed in Pennsylvania. The Staple Bend Tunnel is 900 feet long.

1850 – Henry Wells and William Fargo form American Express in Buffalo, New York.

1877 – President Rutherford B. Hayes appoints Frederick Douglass as the U.S. Marshal of Washington, DC.

1882 – Morgan Earp is assassinated in Tombstone, Arizona, two months after the gunfight at the OK Corral. Wyatt Earp’s brother was killed by outlaws after he played billiards.

1910 – The first opera by a U.S. composer (Converse) is performed at the Met, New York City.

1931 – The first electric shavers go on sale in the U.S. They are made by Schick. Army Lieutenant Colonel Jacob Schick invented a new type of safety razor in 1921 and continued to improve on his original invention. Schick died in 1937 at age 59.

1942 – The third military draft in the U.S. begins during World War II. Just over 10 million men were drafted.

1977 – Vietnam hands over 22 sets of MIA remains to the U.S. while 1,642 Americans are still listed as missing and unaccounted-for from the Vietnam War.

1990 – Two thieves dressed as police officers tie up guards at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston and steal 13 pieces of art valued at $500 million. It was the largest art heist in U.S. history. Although the museum offered a $5 million reward and the FBI followed many leads the art has never recovered and the thieves have not been caught. Watch a report on the investigation:

1992 – Leona Helmsley is sentenced to 4 years for tax evasion. The “Queen of mean” died in 2007 at age 87. She left $12 million to her pet Maltese dog. The dog died in 2011.

1995 – Basketball great Michael Jordan announces he is ending his 18-month NBA retirement. He played 1995-1998 and retired again. Jordan made another comeback 2001-2003 and retired for the 3rd and final time. He was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009. Jordan is now 55 years old. Watch interviews and highlights:

2014 – The U.S. closes the Syrian embassy in Washington and expels all Syrian diplomats.


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